The Daddacool guide to attending the Royal Ballet

We went to the Royal Opera House to see some ballet at the weekend and I thought I’d share my top tips in case you want to seem some exciting ballet yourself as part of a programme of self improvement and culture. We love culture in our house, we’ve dragged the kids round more museums, galleries and theatres than you could shake a stick at in a no doubt stylised ritualistic fashion, and they’re even beginning to enjoy it now.

So without further ado, these are my top tips for attending the ballet with your children. Or without them, it’s entirely up to you. It’s cheaper if you leave them with their grandparents. Should that be a tip? Who knows…

  • If you have vertigo, don’t book the upper slips. They might be (relatively) cheap but if you have to spend two hours feeling the clarion call of the void pulling you towards a long drop to oblivion, it’s probably not worth it.
  • Take the time to find out how the ballet you’re attending is pronounced. For example Giselle isn’t pronounced like chisel and you’ll get some funny looks if you repeatedly get it wrong in front of people who aren’t in the cheap seats.
  • Take some time before you go to read up on the story. Ballet is at best interpretive dance and at worst just people prancing around on a set. What they dance doesn’t give much away of what is actually happening and I’ve yet to decode what a chap jumping up with his arms by his side, scissoring his legs frenetically actually means in the context of story/emotion or anything else.
  • Ensure you find out where all the toilets are and make sure any accompanying children have been toileted three or four times before the ballet starts. The seats are quite closely packed and the amount of tutting that will ensue if you have to get up during part of the performance is astonishing but rest assured, if you do have to go out, you won’t miss anything critical to your understanding of the story; it’ll just be some prancing about and funny jumping, which whilst nice isn’t critical to your enjoyment as the whole thing is made up of prancing about and funny jumping.
  • The ladies doing ballet get to do all the cool stuff and the men look a bit daft. All the chaps get to do is the aforementioned jumpy thing (like a posher form of Riverdance), some long strides and a few lifts. The ladies get to do all the spinning around, graceful jumping and stand with their leading foot at a funny angle.
  • The ballet we saw was around 100 minutes (with an interval in the middle), followed by about 2 hours of applause and bowing, presumably on a pre-agreed rota to give the performers a chance for a cup of tea or a wee, which meant that the troupe had about 45 seconds before they had to do the performance all over again for the next bunch of punters. Try to moderate your applause or your hands will sting and you’ll swear all you can hear is clapping for the rest of the day.

We had a lovely time, even if Ned, 6, asked in a loud whisper at one point when were they going to start talking because he couldn’t work out what was happening. There is also a nice sandwich shop round the corner that’s good for lunch.

The futures so bright, I gotta wear cords

When I was a nipper trouser wear was different to what it is today. It wasn’t so much focused on denim, and there were plenty of other options out there. My mum always used to put me and my little brother in corduroy. I liked wearing cords myself, because they were lighter than denim, and cooler in the summer, and you could get them in great different colours. None the less my lasting memory of wearing cords in the 1980’s ended up with me getting a telling off that in proper Beano style, saw me putting my bottom in a sink of ice cold water.

My brother and I were a right pair of little outdoors boys in the 80’s. This meant climbing trees, crawling through gaps in fences, down storm drains, building dens, damming rivers and everything that we probably shouldn’t have been doing. So when I got home from school one nice spring day my mind was solely dedicated to going out and playing. I was still at primary school, so I would have been 9 or ten at the time and I was unimpressed to find a pair of new trousers set out on my bed for me to change in to. Yes, I was that child that had my outfits selected for me on a daily basis. And I’m not ashamed. So being nine, and essentially one of the Goonies (in my own mind at least), I wasn’t going to let a brand new pair of trousers get in the way of having fun.

Wish I had let a brand new pair of trousers get in the way of having fun but hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it?

My brother and I hadn’t been out more than half an hour, and there wasn’t too much mud on my new trousers when I managed to rip them over a pocket squirming through a hole in a wire mesh fence. I immediately felt the hot rush of panic and we both pegged it back home. Mum did that trick of thinning her lips until they disappeared and told me rather ominously to wait until my father got home. I railed against the injustice of it all, it was surely my mums’ fault for making me wear new trousers on such a fine sunny day. New trousers should be held in reserve for the sort of day wherein one visits elderly relatives, not a day when the world needs exploring and taming.

Right now I own a couple of items of corduroy, because denim isn’t suitable for all occasions is it? I’ve been know to wear a cord jacket and corduroy trousers but not together, that’s a bad a crime as decking yourself head to foot in denim isn’t it?

Chums are one of the online retailers driving the reintroduction of corduroy into the mainstream but for some of us, it never really went away and I see this as a vindication of my denim aversion that’s been going on ever since I was a student.

As you can see, for reasons unknown I don’t feature in the above infographic on the history of corduroy. I should but I’ll let them off this once as I frolic through the park on my way home to change out of my suit into some soft soft cord trousers.

Hori ONYX Bluetooth Wireless Controller for PlayStation 4

I love my PS4. I also love my Xbox One. I don’t really love the Dual Shock 4 controller though, the thumb sticks are in the wrong place for me and the overall ergonomics of the pad sometimes suggest to me I’m not doing as well as I might. I have no such issue with the Xbox One controller (any iteration of it), so when I saw that Hori had an officially licensed controller due out with what they helpfully refer to as “Offset Analogue Stick Layout”, I was excited.

Offset Analogue Stick Layout is another way of saying, hey! We’ve copied the thing that makes the Xbox One controller better!

I have several cross platform games on both the Xbox One and the PS4 (I have the X version of the Xbox One and the Pro version of the PS4 if you’re interested), and in some games, Star Wars Battlefront, Geometry Wars Evolved and Ultratron being the three that spring immediately to mind, I find them much easier to play on the Xbox One as the left analogue stick, usually the one used for movement, is situated slightly higher on the controller. View Full Post

Got an Xbox One S for Christmas?

I’ve seen a massive uptick on views of videos and posts mentioning Xbox’s in the last week or so, and I’m imagining that this has a lot to do with some of the stonking deals Microsoft had on it’s Xbox One S over the festive period.

The One S has been out a little over a year and it’s probably pound for pound the best value console on the market at the moment. For under £200 you can pick up a One S with a game or two, that will also play Blu Ray movies and the newer 4K/UHD Blu Ray movies that the PS4 can’t (this is rather embarrassing as Sony is actually on the standard setting body for Blu Ray).

Given that Microsoft now own Minecraft, it’s also a great console for playing Minecraft on, as our lad showed me last year:


Here are a few tips and tricks to get the most out of your Xbox One S, happy gaming! View Full Post

EDF Energy Pretty Curious- encouraging girls into STEM

Our daughter Fifi is going to be 9 in January and she’s already got her mind set on being a vet. She watches vet TV shows and manhandles our long suffering cat constantly. We’re lucky, most girls get put off STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) at an early age because it’s really pushed at boys. All the yuck experiment books are very much aimed at boys, all the circuit board sets have boys on the cover (and, oh, the older brother hogs the PS4, which is definitely “technology”!).

This is why campaigns like Pretty Curious from EDF Energy are so important. Girls generally perform better at school than boys (especially at primary level), and even though Fifi is a whizz at maths, I get the distinct feeling that the system won’t encourage her to pursue it, which is a shame.

Fortunately in popular culture things are starting to change, and Disney has helped drive this. With Rey in the new Star Wars trilogy (the Force Awakens and the Last Jedi, which was out this week), and Jyn in Rogue One, we have female leads in science fiction, showing girls that sci-fi and girls mix. So a tie up between Pretty Curious and the Last Jedi makes super sense and great fun for Fifi who got sent a Little Bits Droid kit to build:

I think it’s great Fifi had such fun building the Droid, especially as it’s a toy that it would be so easy to give a boy. In fact, in almost ten years of blogging, I’d have to say 99% of the time, I’d only get offered things like this to review for the boy. Fifi always gets short changed, and it’s exacerbated by the fact I often get boys stuff offered to me as I’m a dad, despite the fact I have a daughter as well!

There is also a 360 degree virtual reality tour of the best that STEM has to offer girls.

We can all do a bit to encourage our daughters to look more towards STEM careers and interests, so what are you waiting for? Jump in!

Win a family ticket to Nozstock the Hidden Valley 2018!

Nozstock The Hidden Valley – celebrating 20 years! 
Friday 20th – 22nd July 2018
@ Rowden Paddocks, Bromyard, Herefordshire, HR7 4LS
Tickets: From £115 for adults / From £95 teens / 12s and under free
www.nozstock.com / @Nozstock

Artists TBA January 2018

In July 2018 Nozstock The Hidden Valley will reach its 20th anniversary, entering a small group of festivals who have reached two decades of creating magic each summer. Starting from very humble beginnings its founding ethos remains part of the festival to the present, with Nozstock not only a genuine weekend of escapism far from the madding crowds, but also one which has kept the same flourishing spirit each and every summer; it’s a very family festival with abundant charm, integrity and authenticity at every turn, as well as amazing fun across the beautiful site set on a working farm in Bromyard, attracting one of the country’s most wonderfully diverse audiences whether newbies coming for the very first time or seasoned festival goers.

Curated by the father and daughter duo of Noz and Ella and a huge extended family who work across the entire festival, there’s a unique energy to Nozstock unlike anything else in the country. The festival features a huge range of entertainment, activities and inspiration for families and kids, with games, pop-up performances, and workshops at every turn.

It’s going to be an incredible weekend for everyone who comes Nozstock’s 20th anniversary!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Terms and conditions

Prize is non transferable, no cash alternative is offered, if the winner does not respond within 5 days of being chosen, an alternative winner will be picked.

You will have to provide your own transport to the festival and the competition is open to residents of the UK only

The prize is offered by Nozstock The Hidden Valley and the promoter, Daddacool, shall not be held responsible for their failure to supply the prize.

I’ve been threatened with legal action!

It came as a bit of surprise to me, a bolt out of the blue in fact. There I was simply minding my own business, reading my book and listening to some music when the sudden threat of immediate punishing legal action hit me.

 

BAM!

The five year old wasn’t happy that he had to have a bath, and wasn’t going to have any truck with my attempts to get him in to it:

“I’m calling my lawyer, you’re going to prison! You’ll regret making me have a bath!”

Stone me, I never thought it would come to this. Goodness knows where he’s got that from either, we’re not a litigious household. We once contacted a lawyer over a constructive dismissal case but were told that the employer would just stretch it out until the claim (which we had good grounds to win) was exceeded by the legal costs, so we didn’t bother. Other than that, it’s been house moves and wills and nothing else.

I managed to talk him down by promising to read his bed time story but it was a close thing. I need to be more careful next time!

Review: Super Lucky Tales on Xbox One/Xbox One X

Coinciding with the launch of the Xbox One X this week, MS Studios have a new 3D platformer out called Super Lucky Tales. Super Lucky Tales sees you controlling a cute fox, navigating a lush colourful 3D world putting gollums back together and collecting 4 leafed clovers (there are 99 to collect in total and I’m well in to double figures now!).

The game is described as follows by Microsoft:

“Super Lucky’s Tale” is a delightful, playground platformer for all ages that follows Lucky, the ever-optimistic, energetic and lovable hero, on his quest to find his inner strength and help his sister rescue the Book of Ages from Jinx. Jinx is the scheming and mysterious villain trying to reshape the world, but for what reason?

Along the way, encounter a hilarious supporting cast of friends and adversaries. Lucky must confront the nefarious Kitty Litter, Jinx’s mischievous kids – self-taught villains who might not be getting Jinx’s plans quite right. Lucky meets friends and allies along the way too. He meets misplaced Yetis, Kooky Spookies, a village of farming worms and other colourful friends inhabiting of Ages.”

I played Super Lucky Tales at the Xbox Loft the other week and found the two level demo great fun. It looked lovely in 4K on the Xbox One X, but since I don’t have one of those (yet!), I played the review copy Microsoft kindly provided me with on my Xbox One S. The game still looks lovely, although obviously not as lovely as it does in 4K! View Full Post

PlayStation family showcase

As we begin the wind up towards Christmas, one of the things that has struck me this year, with our kids being that bit older, is how what they’d like for Christmas has switched.

We’ve bemoaned the fact that it increasingly seems that toys are being designed to look good in adverts rather than to actually be particularly playable with. The kids tend to ask for a load of plastic tat at Christmas that remains in a box from mid January onwards (until it eventually makes it’s way to the charity shop). It’s frustrating as it’s i) expensive and ii) fills the house up with tat.

This year it’s looking like it will be a bit different though. Last Saturday we headed off to the Playstation Family 2017 event in a trendy part of London. In amongst the multi platform games like FIFA 18 and LEGO Marvel Superheroes 2 (my most eagerly awaited game of the year!), they had a swathe of Playstation exclusive titles that the kids were glued to.

Yes, this year I think the kids might get some video games for Christmas. View Full Post

Xbox One X launching on 7 November!

7th of November is a date to remember. And not for gunpowder, treason and plot either, that’s two days earlier. The 7th of November sees Microsoft’s new Xbox One X console launched and it’s a bit of a doozy.

Earlier on this week Xbox invited me to their Xbox Loft, a swanky penthouse in central London, to play some games and have a chat about the Xbox One X.

The Xbox One X is unique in console launches. It’s a very powerful piece of kit, but it’s also completely compatible with all the existing Xbox One games. This means the usual launch process, which sees the machine launched with maybe five to ten games, and then a steady drip drip of titles, isn’t going to happen this time. Now, you can buy the new Microsoft console and have access to all your existing Xbox One games, and all the Xbox 360 games that already work via backwards compatibility. Oh, and if you’re dead old like me, there are even some original Xbox games available too!

Why would I want to play my existing games on my shiny new console I hear you cry. Well, a lot (there will be around 100 shortly after release) of the existing games are getting enhanced versions/updates for free if you own the original game. This means that some great looking Xbox One games will suddenly get a bump in resolution, framerate and special effects if you play them on your new Xbox One X. It also gives you both choice in what to play and some affordable slightly older games that will still get a makeover. View Full Post